Personal Education

Posted by on 29.10.2009 in education, media

Last week I was flattered by an invitation to be interviewed about my DIY approach to education.

Nicole VeermanJim Saunders and Steve Howard from Wayne MacPhail‘s Online Journalism course at UWO went easy on me but I managed to flub most of it anyways.

Between that conversation and the interview I had with Thomas Cermak from LondonFuse.ca a few days earlier, I spent more time talking about my “career” than I’ve had over the previous 7 years combined.

So I was a little rusty.

I think I probably learned more than the students did.

Despite all the criticisms I toss at the news business, I’d love to be getting a journalism degree right now. Things have certainly changed since I first looked at it in 2001 (then in 2003, then ’05, ’07…’8…).

I’m betting the Class of 2010 will go out and kick some serious ass (if they want to).

Compare the position these students are in to those who started a one-year MA in 2008. I imagine there would have been a lot more skepticism in the air — a lot more dismissive remarks and gestures from old-schooler instructors that “there will always be newspapers,” etc.

(I’m really just guessing. I’m open to being corrected on this point — though I certainly saw more skepticism in writing a year ago.)

A year ago today Obama hadn’t been elected yet; the presence of new, smaller, more focused online operations like 538.com and Politico hadn’t fully registered. Twitter use was a fraction of what it is now. That famous plane in the Hudson hadn’t happened yet, nor had the election in Iran. Tribune Co hadn’t declared bankruptcy. Detroit’s dailies still printed daily. The Seattle Post Intelligencer still printed…

And then consider the class that will start a year later, graduating in 2011.

By next year a lot of the digital tools and practices will have become more sophisticated and professionalized. There will be a lot more people standing over shoulders saying, “you’re doing it wrong.”

As of now everybody can still play. The ideas can easily come from anywhere. An undergrad can write the most discussed meta-commentary of the day (if not the whole week).

After listening to the latest Rebooting the News podcast [listen] that Jay Rosen and Dave Winer do (this week with Jeff Jarvis too) I actually experienced pangs of enthusiasm to maybe go back to school.

Rosen just developed a new studio program that explores new practices and methodologies, while Jarvis teaches and runs a project exploring new business models for news. They were talking about those and I got kind of excited.

If there were programs like that 10 or even 5 years ago I wouldn’t have been “self-educated,” I would have stayed within institutional walls.

So I browsed over to UWO‘s site (which I do from time to time), thinking about graduate work in media studies or something. I figure, I’ve already done so much of the homework, I might as well join the tribe and get the documentation to back it up.

But here’s the thing.

I have a 3 year BA with gentleman’s C’s — which is my bad, I know; but I can’t change it now either way. So I have to take courses before I can even apply for an MA.

So fine, I can do that…

But let’s see… I’ll be taking undergrad courses and hopefully by the fall of 2011, if all goes well, I can start an MA, building up to an independent research project… And what could possibly change in the world in the next 18 months?

Finally I decide that I might as well just keep doing what I’m already doing, somewhat successfully.

I’ve been going through these cycles for close to a decade.

Yesterday it was journalism and media. A month from now there might be a huge foreign affairs crisis, or whatever, and that will make me super-inquisitive about things related to that — politics & economics, etc — and then I’ll cycle back to (my favourite) philosophy.

And the actual value isn’t so much in the content as it is in the ability to learn and adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

And the more I master that, the less it makes sense to go back to school… Unfortunately none of this is a direct avenue to a career. That’s the one thing I really have trouble figuring out.

I’ll figure it out one day.

But anyways… Long story, um, short, I’m looking forward to the EduPunk panel discussion on Nov. 16!

[And sorry for spelling any/everybody’s name wrong.]